Off the Shelf
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The Paratrooper

The paratrooper shook as they descended upon him.
Prepared to interrogate him with hollow-point questions
Like a howling pack of white-colored wolves
The team encircled and ensnared his dying body.
The alarm bells shrieked behind him as he whimpered.
Bound and gagged by his own battlefield brain
He cautiously watched his four captors encircle him,
Feebly turning his sallow eyes towards them.
The machine-gun interrogation shook his bony skeleton.
Unable to answer his interrogators or himself,
His once-mighty tongue now tragically silenced,
He could only hold his frail hand to his trembling mouth.
Alone and afraid he began to cry uncontrollably.
He screamed for his wife and his mother,
And upon realizing he was truly abandoned behind enemy lines
Hung his gray head in fatigued resignation.
He screamed when they stabbed his swollen stomach.
Through dirty glass he begged his captors to free him
From his neglected body and demented mind
Infested with disease and feverishly fragile.
The paratrooper sat with his suffering, imprisoned in pain.
A proud man now in a no-man’s land,
Pounded by the relentless artillery of his interrogators,
Terrified by the very people trying to save him.

This was written about an elderly veteran who presented to the hospital in the throes of sepsis. He had suffered a stroke years prior and could not communicate correctly with the medical team. While my medical team and I recognized the severity of the situation and began to take an aggressive history, we failed to recognize his aphasia and overwhelmed him to the point of hysteria. Later, I learned he was a decorated paratrooper who was dropped behind enemy lines in the Korean War. In the moment, my team transitioned from his physicians to his interrogators despite our good intentions. This is a reflection on that transition.

Andrew Kolarich (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer

University of Florida College of Medicine

Andrew Kolarich is a third year medical student at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL.